The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

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The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Katie Pullen
Reviewed by Katie Pullen
Summary: Calli and Petra are missing and as the search for them begins, the initial shared goal of their families becomes broken, leading to suspicion and violence. An impressive debut with plenty of suspense and unexpected twists. Highly recommended. Heather Gudenkauf was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: April 2010
Publisher: MIRA
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0778303695

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On a hot August morning in the small town of Willow Creek, Iowa, Calli Clark and Petra Gregory are reported missing. They are both seven years old, live in the same street, and are the very best of friends. Calli has suffered from selective mutism from the age of four when she witnessed a traumatic event in her home. As a result Petra has become Calli’s voice, speaking for her and is even able to tell others what Calli is thinking.

Suddenly Calli and Petra’s families are thrust into a state of terror when they each find their daughter’s bed empty in the early hours of the morning. In the next 24 hours their initial hopes that the girls will quickly come home changes to horror and suspicion of each other as the Police become involved and the search for the girls begins. Who has taken their daughters? Are they together? Is Griff, Calli’s violent father, also unaccounted for, involved?

From the first page of this novel I was hooked by Gudenkauf’s intense writing style and was quickly immersed in the world of Willow Creek. She sets her story in a rather eerie location - a country road with houses set 100 yards apart, and all backing on to vast woods, just perfect for any would be abductors to hang around undetected. The atmosphere is stifling and claustrophobic with the heat of August and the place seems very much cut off from the town to which it belongs. This all adds to the intensity of the events and the emotions that start to spill out when the girls are reported missing.

Gudenkauf has also mastered an impressive multiple narrative throughout the novel. The story is told primarily by five characters - Calli, her mother Antonia, her brother Ben, Petra’s Dad Martin, and the Deputy Sheriff Louis. This may seem a bit over the top or confusing, but it works surprisingly well and is a versatile way of fleshing out the history of each storyteller, histories that help the reader to understand the actions of the characters and the current events that surround them. The only narrative I was uncertain about was Calli’s. I felt it risky to see events from her perspective, as surely this would weaken the primary plot that would keep most readers interested. But, surprisingly Gudenkauf gives little away and instead injects extra mystery to what has happened to Calli and Petra.

The characters themselves are all strong and well conceived, and I felt immense sympathy for Antonia, Martin and Fielda as they move from hope to dread as they try to find the girls, as well as a loathing towards Calli’s violent father Griff. However, Calli’s elder brother Ben really stands out as the hero here. Very protective of Calli since she lost her voice, Ben seems to have no voice of his own as he is overlooked by his mother and Petra’s parents after the girls’ disappearance, but without him the events that unfold may have taken a different route.

The story also takes place over twenty four hours, an extremely short period to write about, but this is perhaps why the novel works so well. The pace is kept remarkably fast, reflecting the chaos that surrounds Calli and Petra’s families and as a result none of the drama or focus of the story is lost.

For a first novel Gudenkauf has also given herself some tricky themes, but these have obviously been well researched as she deals with the subjects of abduction, domestic violence and alcoholism carefully and sensitively.

I cannot recommend this book enough if you want a fast paced, well-written novel with plenty of suspense. The only negative is that the outcome is a little predictable, but hey you can’t have everything.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further Reading Suggestion: If this book appeals to you, you may also enjoy Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult, The Bay at Midnight by Diane Chamberlain and The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.

Bookinterviews.jpg Heather Gudenkauf was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.

Buy The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf at Amazon.com.


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